6 times a father can’t be “equal”

Today I read an article about a father who was threatened to have security called on him when he was using a parents room to change the nappy on his child. Thankfully, another mother in the room came to his defence and addressed the woman that was attacking him.

Understandably, this has caused a lot of outrage online. The woman who spoke up is part of one of my Facebook groups, and everyone was in agreement that she did the right thing.

I started the discussion on my own Facebook page, and it was a similar sentiment. Everyone agreed a parents room is for parents, whether that be Mum or Dad. In fact, one suggestion was that it should be renamed “Carer’s Room” so that anyone responsible for the care of a child could use the facilities. Great idea!

This got me thinking further beyond this. What other extremely uncomfortable situations could my husband potentially face in the future? What else was he missing out on because an equal opportunity or expectation wasn’t there for males? What about two gay males that are raising children together? What situations would they face?

There were a few scenarios that immediately jumped to mind based on what I’ve seen and heard. I put the same question to my husband as well. Without having had our first child yet we don’t know what else he could potentially face.

Together, we came up with the following list.

  1. Taking children to the toilet (for example if we had a daughter and there wasn’t a parents room, would he take her to the men’s room? The ladies room? Disabled toilets)
  2. Sitting at the playground; I vaguely recall a father talking about how he was made to feel like a paedophile when he took his children to the playground. Simply sitting there and watching them was cause for concern, when in fact he was simply monitoring his children to make sure they were playing safely.
  3. The lack of “father’s groups” being a common thing – as women it’s fine for us to form friendship groups that meet regularly and discuss challenges we’re facing. Does that even exist for fathers?
  4. How uncommon it is for men to be a stay-at-home-father. I know several males who have taken this role on, and are raising beautiful children. Yet it still seems like it’s so rare it’s a cause for surprise
  5. Likewise, criticisms about how hands-on fathers are. If they work too long, or don’t change enough nappies, it’s all debated. Everything is up for discussion. That’s a lot of pressure on them (not to negate the pressure on the mothers either, of course).
  6. Trying to take photos of their children. If they’re in a public space and the mother isn’t nearby, would surrounding people feel uncomfortable if the father was taking photos of the children?

My husband is the clucky one out of the two of us, and is nearly bursting out of his skin waiting for our child to arrive. He’s not the stereotypical male. He knows more about parenting and looking after a child than I do. He’s the cook of the house. There are going to be days where he looks after our child without me. No doubt he will be presented with some of the situations mentioned above, and more. I’ve already told him that I would encourage him to address it directly with anyone who makes him feel out of place.

I think if we can continue the conversation about the role of fathers, and come up with some coping techniques, that he and a lot of other males will be extremely grateful.

For parents of children now, have you experienced any of these situations before? How did you handle it? Any tips for the future fathers (and mothers) out there?


55 Replies to “6 times a father can’t be “equal””

  1. something else to consider as well is that not everywhere has “parent” rooms, but almost no men’s rooms have those fold down baby change tables. I know my cousin in law has had to take the babies to the car to change them because there wasn’t anywhere he could

    1. That’s a brilliant point – I hadn’t even stopped to think about the facilities in the men’s room if they *did* take the bub in there. Although interestingly popular theory is the men would rather go anywhere but the mens room, hygiene being the biggest concern. Makes me wonder what exactly goes on in there haha

  2. Interesting. I don’t necessarily think it’s up to women to pave the way here. Men need to become vocal about their rights as parents as well, with our support. Like Morgwyn’s point above- men can and should campaign for change tables in men’s rooms and the like.

    1. That’s true, men do need to become more vocal about it. However I think they typically feel like they’re going to be frowned on. My husband definitely gets on his soap box when the topic of divorce and custody comes up (not with us thankfully – our marriage is solid!)

    2. This is where feminism benefits men- removing the idea that men are somehow useless at parenting and moving toward equality. There are a lot of changes that our society needs for that to happen but I 100% believe blokes need to be involved in making those changes. It’s not up to women to fix everything for them, you know? We need to get it happening together!

    3. The father’s group one is kind of odd, because no one is stopping men from reaching out to other dads online and IRL, the same way that women do. As Amy Wakley-Ahearn said, a lot of these things go hand in hand with the changes to social, cultural, economic and structural factors that feminists are working towards in order to create a more equal playing field. Men are welcome allies if they are keen to jump in and join us in agitating for these changes, but the push needs to come from them too. All of the things that disadvantage men arise from the same stereotypes and attitudes that disadvantage women eg women being seen as default as primary carers.

  3. It is so sad the double standard we have everywhere. I like the suggestion in your post for a carers room instead of parents. Also, agree about the park and other locations. We judge so quickly as a society, making it awkward to be a parent.

  4. Well a friend told me they have changed the name from mothers group to Parents Meet Up now for this very reason. And what I can say about my husband is we have two girls, he takes them out swimming (just the 3 of them) and uses the parents room if someone needs the toilet. He has always when they were babies come into the parents room with me and and no one has had the indecency to tell him he doesn’t belong. I know if they did though he’d stand up for himself. Don’t over think it if you have a girl – dads are their parents too and should never be shamed to take their little girl to the toilet.

  5. I would love for it to become more normal for dads to work part-time as well as mums. My husband looks after our kids one weekday each week, but he works a weekend day to make up for it. Part-time is still far too taboo for dads.

    1. I think my husband would jump at the opportunity to do that if he could, but right now while I’m on maternity leave he’s remaining the bread winner. However I know that if we ever felt the situation was appropriate he wouldn’t have any problems doing it

  6. The toilet situation works the other way around too. For example I have a 9yo boy now who really doesn’t want to go to a female public toilet. Plus once I found I couldn’t go to a public change room at a swimming pool with him because boys over 7 weren’t allowed in the female change rooms. True story. Tricky when it’s just me and my boys out and about

    1. Wow, another thing I hadn’t even considered! And that’s where it becomes difficult about using disabled toilets as well. Typically they’re included within the existing gender bathrooms rather than separate, and if they *are* separate, there’s still only one. I’m sure there would be times that people that needed those facilities would frown upon a child using it too. Tough call.

    2. I have just discovered this at our pool when I take the kids for swimming lessons and there’s no family rooms! So we’re told to use disabled, which just doesn’t seem right either, because that’s not what they’re for. It’s a bit of a pain.

  7. The worst we have come across was when the baby change table was in the ladies toilet. My husband went to change the baby’s nappy and had to come back and get me so I could do it.

    1. I never pay attention to them either. It makes you wonder about the story behind the people that verbally attack the men in the parents rooms. What’s happened to them to make them lash out??

  8. If men want to work part-time, they need to make it happen. But there also needs to be greater recognition of the contribution parenting makes to the community, and that both men and women are able to parent.

    1. I agree. I’m so excited to see my husband turn into a father, he can’t wait to teach our child so many things: how to garden (my husband loves his veggie patch), going camping, sports. He is going to make such a great impact.

  9. In my own world, my husband hasn’t faced much discrimination, and given he spent 18 months as the primary carer for our first son while I worked, you would think he might.

    Old ladies would stop him in the shops and tell him how wonderful he was. Women would throw themselves at him, assuming he was a sole parent, because why else would a man change nappies? His family brag about him to anyone who will listen.

    I mean no one thinks I’m a superhero for doing what needs to be done, but anyway 🤷‍♀️

    1. That’s another amazing article I read one day, wish I could find it. It was written by a father, who said to his wife “you should consider yourself lucky because I change his nappies”. She responded with “why should I thank you? You’re his parent too”. He then wrote this article about how he was pissed at first, then realised she was absolutely right. That fathers that put in effort the equivalent of a mother are complimented and thanked, when it’s just as much their responsibility as well.

  10. We certainly haven’t faced any of these issues but I do laugh at how men are congratulated just for leaving the house with their kids and everyone tells them how wonderful they are!

  11. Its no different to when i would change my own flat tyre and be congratulated, or when someone says ‘why are you mowing the lawn or painting the house”, we pidgeon hole genders and then act surprised when roles are reversed.

    1. Yep! I’m actually going to pull myself up here too, because we joke about my husband being the wife because he’s sensitive and does the cooking. No, he’s the husband, and just taking on certain roles. I’m totally guilty of overstepping the mark here.

  12. A lot of people rag on Dad’s for not being ‘hands on’ but then, when they are they are met with criticism or skepticism for it. Society needs to chill out and allow both mothers and fathers to PARENT. It’s certainly not a job for one gender.

  13. We’ve never had any of these issues with the park or toilets. If my hubby is out or has the kids he has always taken the kids to the parent room or disabled toilets without any issues

  14. My husband has encountered challenges with diaper change tables in the mens bathrooms whilst we lived overseas (nothing in the disabled bathrooms either). I’m thankful to be out of that phase !

  15. Our society definitely needs to work together towards better balance for both men and women. Right now, as you point out, it’s actually hard for a father to be the stay-at-home parent. That’s not okay

  16. I remember being furious when Qantas made a fuss about moving a man from children travelling unaccompanied because it was company policy (he hadn’t done anything wrong – but it was highly embarrassing – poorly managed by Qantas). And then saddened when my husband, who was briefly considering going back to study as a primary teacher was

  17. The only real issue my husband has had to face is when needing to take the girls to the toilet and there being no parents room. In which case he takes them in to the disabled toilet as there is no way they can be allowed to go in the womens by themselves (they’re only 4 & 5) and he doesn’t want to take them in the men’s toilets. Other than that it’s mostly been ok. We did both have a big laugh though at how surprised people were when they found out I went to Perth for a week when the girls were 3 & 1.5 and he took a few days off work to be home with them. People were amazed that he “could be left that long on his own!” with his own children (implying he was somehow incapable of caring for his own children full-time because he was a man). Like, seriously? Of course! And for the record, I’ve never been left on my own for a week with the kids, he did better than I reckon I would have, I would have ended up going to stay at my Mum’s if it had been me, lol, I wouldn’t have handled it!

  18. I remember being really angry when Qantas made a man move during a flight because they’d seated him next to unaccompanied children. Nothing he’d done wrong and highly embarrassing. And then feeling sad when my father, advising by husband who was considering retraining as a primary teacher, of a lot of the limitations that apply to a make teacher. It was probably because I was so tired, being the primary income earner (while my husband was the primary carer) with small kids who weren’t sleeping – and I felt like we all, as a society, need to do more to support either parent (not just the mother) to care for kids. Mostly – it was fine, but at time, you realise the barriers are there.

Let me know your thoughts!